Consona Targets High-Tech with Knowledge Driven Support


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Consona is an interesting company, formed from the acquisition of numerous ERP and CRM vendors over the past few years. That can make it difficult to put Consona into a neat bucket, because depending on the industry or application, it can compete well in small, medium and large enterprises.

Tom Millay is general manager of Consona’s CRM division, which now includes 7 products including Consona Knowledge Management (formerly known as KNOVA). Here is a summary of a recent briefing, with some observations on what’s in store for the future.

Service vs. support

I’ve been as guilty as anyone of using “CSS” — Customer Service/Support — as a shorthand for all the solutions that handle customer service or support. As if they are pretty much the same thing.

They’re not. As I’ve come to learn, there’s a world of difference between a service interaction with bank customer asking a question about an account, and a support interaction where a user is trying to get a technical problem fixed. While there are some common function (case management, knowledge bases, etc.), that doesn’t mean one size fits all.

Consona’s Knowledge Driven Support (KDS) solution is not targeted for general customer service applications, but rather at complex technical support operations in mid-sized and large companies. Like high-tech manufacturers (e.g. Sony and Avaya) or software firms.

Millay says Consona KDS solution is more “high-end” than RightNow, and actually competes more directly with Inquira (when partnered with Siebel). I asked Millay what he thought of’s much-hyped “Service Cloud” solution. He said that it was good for small to medium-sized companies with “modest complexity” while Consona is targeted at medium- to large-enterprises with more complexity.

Consona’s approach is to tightly integrate its robust knowledge base with case management and chat. This makes it a good fit to support product lines that require complex searches and a high volume of documents. Here’s a diagram to illustrate what KDS includes.

Consona Knowledge Driven Support (KDS)

The Consona difference

There are dozens of CSS solutions available for companies of all shapes and sizes. How to choose?

One very interesting differentiator for Consona comes by virtue of the previous SupportSoft acquisition. Let’s say an agent is interacting (talking, chatting) with a customer and trying solve a technical problem. With the customer’s permission, the agent can retrieve diagnostics (driver versions, hard disk space, etc.) directly from the user’s PC and use in the resolution process. And some of these problems could lead to marketing opportunities — like suggesting a hard drive upgrade.

In some situations it may help that Consona recently attained “KCS Verified v4 Status” status by the Consortium for Service Innovation, a “non-profit alliance of organizations focused on innovation for the support industry.” KCS, in case you were wondering, means Knowledge-Centered Support, a methodology and a set of practices and processes designed to capture, organize and re-use tech support knowledge.

As of this posting, only Consona Knowledge Driven Support has achieved KCS Verified v4 status for a “combined knowledge management and incident management” product.

Consona’s future will be more cloudy… and social

I do feel Consona needs to pick up the pace in developing cloud-based solutions and supporting social media. After telling me in the past that SaaS really wasn’t a requirement for their customers, apparently company execs had a change of heart. Millay says Consona will introduce a full cloud-based offering next year based on Amazon EC2.

What about social media? Since Consona already has a strong forum capability, one might think it would be leading the charge in Social CRM — where Helpstream, RightNow, Parature and are all very active. Sadly, no. However, Millay says they plan to expand their forums into multi-function communities (including ideation) next year, and will also support mobile channels.

All in all, these are positive developments that will help Consona keep a solid position in the market for complex customer support solutions. As for the 2010 moves to embrace cloud computing and social media, all I can say is “tick tock.”

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